Nobody really needs to justify loving the World Cup. I mean, it's only the most watched sports event in the world, with an estimated 715 million viewers tuned in to the final game in 2006 (and that was apparently only the 4th most watched World Cup ever). But then I can't watch this joke of a match going on between Germany and Serbia. Besides, I think many of my friends believe I love the World Cup because of the shirtless, hot footballers. So this is my stab at redeeming myself. (And yes, I will call it 'football' like we do in most parts of the world.)
10. Shirtless, hot footballers (hey, they're hot, can't deny the facts)
9. Fan mania (this is one sport where it's perfectly legitimate for fans to be as rowdy, crazy, obsessed and over-the-top as we want to be...I mean most sports fanatics are obsessed, but in football, it's perfectly understandable and acceptable)
8. Teamwork (yeah, we have the stars, the superstars, in fact, but this sport is about teamwork and nowhere is it more apparent than in the World Cup when all these stars have to leave their club memberships, fat paychecks, and pride behind to play on par with the hardworking but less famous guys from back home)
7. Equalizer (football is the great equalizer all over the world, because you can be a homeless street kid and play/love this game...watch the documentary 'Kicking It' by one of my professors, Susan Koch, if you haven't already)
6. Strategy (to the naysayers who make jokes about men chasing a polka dotted ball around a field and 'just running' you have absolutely no clue how much brain work and play making goes into a solid team and match)
5. Controversy (the amazing rules...check out how many pages the official FIFA rules pdf has...make for great controversy stirring sh*t...especially in the day before 'live' digital video and offside calls tread a fine line between best intentions and error of human judgment...and let's not get started on the yellow and red cards, the penalty, free kicks, corners, etc. etc.)
4. Statistics (football is a mathematician's wet dream...there's player statistics, tries, goals, etc. and team statistics...and the World Cup, with its history and sheer number of teams probably needs its own dedicated server just to handle crunching all those NUMBERS)
3. Flags (look at all those gorgeous colors fluttering in the wind...it's better than the United Nations...tell me you're not swaying to 'Waving Flag' right now)
2. World Peace (seriously, the World Cup is the only time when nationalism and international relationships clash in healthy competition...bitter enemies, neighbors with love-hate affairs, a triangle or two, even...imagine if all strife in the world can be resolved on the pitch...you know, North & South Korea, USA-Iran, etc. The pen is mightier than the sword, but the ball is ROUND.
1. My Daddy.
When I was a little girl, my daddy introduced me to football...on TV. I remember many sultry Sunday afternoons spent watching EPL matches, AC Milan and Real Madrid. I think I learned how to spot an offside before I actually started playing any sports. I probably would have played football, if I didn't grow up in a part of the world where girls didn't get to play.
My daddy also introduced me to my first 'hero' - Pele. I would ditch the greatest footballer of all time later for my own role model - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who to me embodies feminine power, dedication to a cause and real courage as Hemingway described it. But deep in my heart, there will always be a deep respect for Pele, not just because he's who he is, but because my daddy respected him.
Then, when I was 14, I did what all girls do. I picked my own guy to have a crush on - Diego Maradona, the second greatest footballer ever. It was the year he led Argentina to a resounding World Cup victory. I made my mother buy tins and tins of a chocolate drink called "Milo" (or was it "Ovaltine") so I could collect all the team stickers and complete my World Cup handbook. I think that was also when I started to think of myself as a citizen of the world, and that must also have been what sparked my wanderlust and desire to visit as many different corners of the world as I can in my lifetime.
I live 10,000 miles away from my daddy now, but I'm pretty he's watching the World Cup and enjoying it as much as I am. Happy Father's Day, DAD.